By Scott Campbell
Dining out while we’re in the midst of a global pandemic is a very different experience. Those of us who really enjoyed a night out with a great meal were left to fend for ourselves in our own kitchens. We were isolated not only from our friends and favourite activities but also from a sense of normalcy that had suddenly disappeared. Those first few months of flattening the curve were challenging to say the least. Then, as our concerted efforts continued, we began to see the results of our sacrifices and slowly, our society and our economy began to stir again. With that came the reappearance of dining out. But, it looks a little different. I decided to write this article to help those who were considering dining out and to maybe make it a little less alien and more comfortable.
First of all, by now, we have all heard of social distancing. Covid-19 is spread via droplets. However, these droplets have a hard time moving more than 2 meters beyond their source. Any restaurants that were opening needed to ensure that diners (or a bubble of diners) would remain 2 meters apart. For many establishments this meant removing some tables. And although removing the tables did ensure social distancing, it also resulted in a drastic decrease in potential business. In an industry that survives on a slim profit margin at the best of times, this was a concern.
This leads me to part of the reason I wanted to write this article. A local restaurant accepted a reservation a few weeks ago for a party of 12 (two tables of six). Additional staff were brought in and additional fresh produce was purchased. The party of 12 didn’t show up. That group represented about 50% of the restaurant’s business for that evening. Bringing in additional staff and purchasing extra supplies resulted in the restaurant operating at a loss that evening. I would encourage all diners to please act responsibly if you must cancel a reservation and notify the restaurant as soon as you can. During these Covid-19 restrictions, a couple of incidents like the one I just described could mean the end for a restaurant.
Other than noticing fewer tables, you will also notice when you enter that you will likely be asked for your name, your phone number, and you will likely be assigned a table or asked at which table you plan to sit. This is not some invasion of your privacy. It is the restaurant doing their part to assist in contact tracing. Should you or another diner come into contact with someone who turns out to be Covid-19 positive, then you can be contacted and advised to be tested yourself. It is just one of the ways that the restaurants are showing their commitment to your ongoing safety.
There will also be some obvious things you’ll notice, like the fact that your server will be wearing a mask. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now how masks work – my mask keeps you safe, your mask keeps me safe. Obviously you cannot wear a mask while you eat, but your server is doing their part to keep you safe by wearing one. Other things happening may be more subtle but no less effective in keeping you from harm. A server may bring a bottle of wine to your table but you will need to pour it yourself. This is just a small way of lessening the number of people coming into repeated contact with you. The menu may be either sanitized after you use it or you’ll be offered to keep the menu as a token of your dinner. Again, a small gesture that means a great deal in keeping you from potential harm.
So, I would encourage you to take comfort in the fact that our restaurants are going to great lengths to stay open and continue to serve you fantastic meals. The differences you’ll notice are there to keep you safe and make your meal the best dining experience it can be. Cheers.
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